The Blessing of Silence

Yesterday was full of appointments and meetings. At the end of the day to go into my cell (room) and experience its silence was a blessing in the natural as well as supernatural order. Why do we so often fear silence and surround ourselves with sound, any sound, rather than allow ourselves to be lapped in silence?

Perhaps because I am a nun and silence is for me as natural as breathing, I don’t quite ‘get’ the desire for sound. (I refuse to call it noise, because that is disparaging.) Maybe it is something to do with the connection between silence, sleep and death. All three, in different ways and in different degrees, make it impossible for us to exert our will over others. Silence equates to powerlessness; but I’d want to say, it is not powerlessness as commonly understood. The deepest, most complete silence the world has ever known began on Calvary and ended with the Resurrection. We experience it afresh every year on Holy Saturday and in times of prayer when the Word silently transforms our being.

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11 thoughts on “The Blessing of Silence”

  1. Silence, sleep, death–they are also experiences of powerlessness, when we are totally dependent on another power to vindicate us, step in for us, renew us, or resurrect us.

  2. I have been ‘experimenting’ with silence since watching the BBC’s programme “The Big Silence” last autumn, and have found it to be a revelation. I never knew silence could be so *big* before. Does that make sense?
    Also, a friend recently gave me a DVD of the film “Into Great Silence” – actually filmed inside a Carthusian monastery in the French alps – and, watching it in a meditative way, I am being inspired and enthused. Bring on the silence!

    P.S. I just came across your blog the other day, after reading your article in The Door, and I love it! (I never knew nuns could be so funny!)

  3. Silence feels like such a blessing when I get there. Too often the sound of my own thoughts drowns it. I am a toddler at silence 🙂
    The description is yours is inspiring, what I hope to be able to do when I don’t get sidetrack with my next good idea 🙂

  4. You make silence sound so wonderful, but I’m a toddler like Claire (good way of putting it, Claire) – I can’t do stillness either – a toddler with ADHD – and yet I so want to be able to do it!

  5. Lovely post.
    I have much to learn from you.
    You are well set up for the theme for World Communications Day next year: Silence and Word: Path of Evangelisation. (Great theme and intriguing as to how we bloggers will write about it.)

    To add to the conversation you might be interested in this post
    http://blueeyedennis-siempre.blogspot.com/2011/09/on-stillness.html
    and this which is tongue in cheek in parts (!)
    http://blueeyedennis-siempre.blogspot.com/2011/09/shhhh-word-is-out-focus-on-silence-and.html
    Blessings

  6. Thank you for your comments. I’m certainly not an ‘expert’ in silence, but I think it is something that one goes deeper and deeper into. Oddly enough, although newcomers to the monastery often say that silence attracts them, the lived reality can prove difficult.

  7. If I remember correctly, silence was one of the things that C. S. Lewis said was absent from Hell. George Orwell said much the same thing in “1984”: the telescreens were in every room, and could never be turned off. Likewise, anyone who’s been stuck in an airport with CNN and ESPN blaring away to beat the band, soon finds himself longing for silence.

    The richest silence I ever heard was at a recital by Andres Segovia 1973. It was at Toronto’s Massey Hall: an old hall that was acoustically superb but very large, with an audience numbering in the thousands that day. Segovia played Scarlatti, Gianastera, and Handel, just him and his classical guitar – no microphone, no amplification. In order to hear anything, the audience had to be very still, very silent. Maybe my memory is playing me false, but I don’t recall any of the shuffling of programs or coughing that normally mars even the best musical audiences. Instead, as I remember it, each of us in the audience were utterly quiet, listening with all our strength, so that the room was filled with a rich silence animated by Segovia’s soft, impossibly beautiful notes. It was quite an afternoon, to have heard such music and participated in such a shared silence.

  8. Each morning, usually about 4.00 am, my wife and I rejoice in the quiet in our flat. It is a lovely, peaceful way to start the day together.

  9. By Friday night, after a whole week of teaching music, I can no longer communicate at all.

    One listens and watches so intently when teaching, that these senses become exhausted (luckily this is only temporary). A time of neither speaking nor listening is required in order to recover, and then all is well again.

  10. Thank you for your insights. Perhaps the only addition I’d want to make is that silence isn’t ‘merely’ restorative. It is intensely creative. You can hear silence, and it isn’t the absence of sound. Difficult to explain briefly, and perhaps I shouldn’t even try, but I am convinced of the truth of what I say because it is a common experience in monastic life (i.e. not just me being batty).

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